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Methodical madness: why Far Cry 3′s smarter than you think

Tuesday, 5 June 2012 00:02 GMT By Nathan Grayson

Can a juxtaposition between thought-provocation and in-your-face nudity be taken as seriously as Ubisoft Montreal would like? Nathan Grayson plays the E3 build of Far Cry 3 and talks to lead writer Jeffrey Yohalem.

Far Cry 3

Follows Jason, a 25 year-old from LA, on a messy jaunt around a tropical island.

Developed by Ubisoft Montreal.

Out September 4 in the US and September 6 in the EU.

Releasing on PC, 360 and PS3.

Far Cry 3 is trying desperately to be the smartest, most thought-provoking shooter on the block. The demo I played, however, began with a topless woman writhing in pleasure on top of my character and ended by killing me with tigers and fire. (The tigers, technically, were also topless.) At first glance, you’d think Ubisoft Montreal was trying to bridge the distance between these two goals with some kind of blind, nigh-impossible Hail Mary throw. Guns, explosions, (literally) in-your-face nudity, fire, leaping off cliffs and knifing thugs Ezio-style, and pondering the larger implications of our medium’s fascination with ultra-violence? Yeah, one of these things is not like the other. According to lead writer Jeffrey Yohalem, however, that’s the point.

“We started out with Far Cry 2,” he explained during a post-demo interview. “We shipped that game, and then it was like ‘What are we going to do with [Far Cry 3]?’ So we turned everything over and looked at everything, and there was a point where it was going to be similar to Far Cry 2 – I guess you would say gritty and realistic.”

“But I think trying to put a serious narrative wrapper on a game – and when I say serious, I mean Schindler’s List serious – I don’t think that can happen yet. The mechanics are so wild in games. You have a guy who’s killing 35 people in ten minutes, and you want to do something that’s about the gravity of killing? It’s almost funny. There are all these moments in games where it’s doing a really serious narrative, and the gameplay ingredients are funny – in a good way. They’re joyous. There’s joy in interactivity. So I think fighting against that puts you in the – I guess you’d call it – uncanny valley of storytelling.”

So obviously, Far Cry 3 definitely isn’t Far Cry 2. But what is it, then? Well, to hear Yohalem tell it, it’s “a game about games.” The silly, over-the-top FPS cliches are out in full force, but they’re marching to the beat of an entirely different drum.

“We put the player into all these situations where they expect things to happen in a certain way, because Jason is a 25-year-old from Los Angeles. So, on some level, it’s the western world’s view of what’s supposed to happen in a videogame. And then we say, ‘OK, how are we going to subvert this? How are we going to challenge it or cause you to look at it in a new way?’ It extends to the game itself. You’re getting XP and you see it on screen, and that’s part of the story. There’s reaction to getting that XP and the feeling they get when they level up. That’s part of the story,” he explained, referring to tribal tattoos on Jason’s arm that represent XP and unlocked skills like improved aim, the ability to hold your breath for extended periods, and some positively brutal executions.

One final enemy – an armored man with a flamethrower – emerged, and I got the bright idea to shoot the door off another tiger cage. This one didn’t even try to earn my trust. It just beelined straight for me, jaws and claws held in stance that said, “Are you going to finish those intestines?” So yeah, that’s how my demo ended – with two tigers mauling me while I was on fire. It was pretty great.

In other words, Far Cry 3′s goal is to crank up everything we take for granted about shooters to a point where it’s so defeaningly loud that we can’t ignore it. So, sure enough, my demo kicked off with a topless, tribally painted woman moaning and monologuing (moanologuing?) at Jason atop some kind of strange ceremonial pyre. “You are a warrior,” she said, face partially illuminated by the flames all around her. “You live for battle.” Then Jason stood up, took a few steps forward, and addressed a horde of tribal fighters. “We are the warriors of the Rakyat,” he bellowed, “and I will lead you to victory!” So basically, it’s male power fantasy 101 – and also oddly reminiscient of Avatar, which (at least, in reference to that particular part) Yohalem claimed was very intentional.

It’s quite a – I am sighing loudly as I type this – far cry from the stranded, terrified Jason we met last year, and Yohalem chalked that up to the game’s story progression. “This game is about killing in games, but it’s about killing in games,” he emphasized. “It’s not about killing in the dark, gritty, realistic Schindler’s List way. The player’s joyful experience of playing a game and killing, and the player becoming a killer – Jason’s journey mirrors that.”

After that, the scene skipped to Jason standing atop a gorgeous, sun-seared cliff, surrounded by so many shades of green that I felt like I was inside a box of Crayolas. Now, I experienced this demo multiple times – both playing it myself and watching others – and while Ubisoft can claim it’s nailed the balance between linearity and openness that’s eluded so many others, it was really encouraging to see it in action. For instance, our presenter began by taking a dive so powerful it could’ve parted any number of seas (red or otherwise) into the waters below. I, on the other hand, bellyflopped so embarassingly that even the oceans themselves cringed upon hearing it.

Admittedly, the mission itself was fairly linear – go to Vaas’ lair, infiltrate it, discover (shock!) he’s not there, escape from exploding fire trap building, kill more dudes, etc – but battles were impressively multifaceted. Where the presenter coolly stalked through the balmy jungles, slowly picking off baddies with arrows from his high-tech bow (“Have you noticed, like, every game is into bows right now? It’s because of Hunger Games,” joked Yohalem), I played as though I had the body of Rambo and the brain of Evil Kenevil. Sure, I was constantly riddled with bullets and rather gleefully knocking on death’s door, but my enemies were already inside – and they were on fire.

The fairly brief demo culminated in an incredibly chaotic battle outside Vaas’ now-exploded home, and it was there that the open nature of combat really shined. The presenter, for instance, cut down the crowd of ten or so enemies like they were a slightly unruly lawn. At one point, he even managed to knife a man, pull the pin from the grenade on his profusely bleeding body, and “300” kick him – off a roof – into a truck with a pesky machine gun turret. Both – somewhat predictably, given the way grenades generally work – exploded in a glorious blaze of satisfaction. And fire. Lots of fire.

I, meanwhile, opted to improvise, and it was then that I was most reminded of Far Cry 2. Basically, everything went horribly, horribly wrong, and it was wonderful. After fleeing through a couple buildings and stabbing my veins with so many health needles that I was sure some doctor was going to walk up and hand Jason a “great job” sticker and a lollipop, I caught sight of a tiger cage. So, cackling maniacally, I shot its door off and watched as the tiger mauled the face right off an unsuspecting thug.

And then I learned a very valuable lesson: tigers are dicks. The striped embodiment of biggie-sized feline spite, of course, immediately turned on me – which surprised me at the time for some reason. Probably because I’m a bit thick. Then one final enemy – an armored man with a flamethrower – emerged, and I got the bright idea to shoot the door off another tiger cage. This one didn’t even try to earn my trust. It just beelined straight for me, jaws and claws held in stance that said, “Are you going to finish those intestines?” So yeah, that’s how my demo ended – with two tigers mauling me while I was on fire. It was pretty great.

There is, however, still a lot we don’t know. Will, for instance, over-the-top action and writing collude to create a noticeably different effect from the player’s relationship with The Jackal in Far Cry 2? I mean, this demo – played properly and not with death by tigerfire – ended on a trippy hallucination that had Vaas pull the player’s gun to his face, at which point it morphed into Jason’s. Then, with his trademark mix of charismatic suave and foaming-at-the-mouth psychosis, Vaas shouted “You are me, and I am you.” So, will it be third verse, same as the second? I don’t know – but an incredibly bizarre halucination of Vaas seductively pole-dancing has me convinced that Ubisoft Montreal’s at least taking this theme as far in the opposite direction as possible.

Far Cry 3′s multiplayer.

And of course, there’s the question of whether Far Cry 3′s really open or just Crysis 2 open. And while we have no way of knowing for the time being, Yohalem had some fairly encouraging words on the subject.

“Most sequences are approachable from 360 degrees,” he said. “So people who love Far Cry don’t have to worry. In reality, this is kind of a hybrid of Far Cry 1 and 2 with a really rich story. Far Cry 1 had a ton of linear sequences. You got the sense that they were open world, because you could wander horizontally a lot. But you were constrained by, like, a canyon. So you were basically being funneled to one particular spot, but you didn’t feel it.”

“It is an open world. Again, part of what we’re trying to explore is, when the player’s going off on missions, there’ll be something to the side, and the player’s like ‘Oh, what’s this and what’s this and what’s this?’ So Jason is doing that too. He’s on this island trying to save his friends, but then he’s distracted by an artifact he wants to find or stealing a vehicle. So Jason is moving away from the search for his friends because he’s attracted by what’s going on on the island. So the player’s narrative and Jason’s narrative are the same. And the friends will react to that. There’s a sense of ‘Wait, what were you off doing? You were out joyriding and stealing cars instead of saving us?’”

That comparison, however, is rather simple, and Far Cry 3 – by and large – seems dead set on being a creature of an entirely different sort. So no, it’s not some long-winded, perfume-soaked love letter to Clint Hocking’s brain, but honestly, we don’t need another Far Cry 2. Far Cry 2 was Far Cry 2. And in that sense, Vaas’ notorious spiel about the definition of madness is pretty applicable. Why keep doing the same thing over and over with such a potential-packed franchise? Yohalem and co, then, aren’t aiming to pave over what’s come before, but they’re not afraid to build something that stands on its own either.

“The way that [Far Cry 3's] similar to Far Cry 2 is that they were trying to push what a game can be. I think we are as well, but we’re doing it in a very different direction. All the movies that have stuck with me – like, for instance, Terminator has all these ideas about what the state should be and how it ultimately becomes all powerful. Or there’s ET, with youth versus authority. For me, the great blockbusters of the past were always about deep social issues.”

ET and Terminator, however, didn’t have flaming betrayal tigers. So maybe – just maybe – Ubisoft Montreal’s on to something here.

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6 Comments

  1. KAP

    I find it ridiculious how we has gamers get all up in arms with a little nudity or violence against females yet killing so-called terrorists or finishing a title with a couple thousand kills is fine?! WTF!!!

    #1 3 years ago
  2. Clupula

    B-but didn’t this site tell me that nudity was bad? And boobs in game were sexist and all that?

    I’m so confused by the mixed messages…

    #2 3 years ago
  3. DSB

    To me this kinda sounds like the kind of empassioned PR stump that ends up way overselling the game.

    That’s certainly how I felt about Far Cry 2. They were promising the sky, but the reality was a lot closer to home. Pinch of salt has been pinched.

    @2 That’s Nathan Grayson, he’s a pervert. He’s also on RPS, but we try to ignore that so we can still allow ourselves to like his stuff. It also explains the terrible puns.

    Pat Garrat is the defender of the femmes. VG247 is all about range.

    Isn’t there a song about misogony and wholesomely, writing together in perfect harmony? If not, there should be.

    #3 3 years ago
  4. roadkill

    Wait? Why is nudity a problem again? Are you not men? Or do you simply not like women?

    #4 3 years ago
  5. polygem

    nudity is not a problem. sexism is. there is a difference. nevermind.

    #5 3 years ago
  6. roadkill

    @5 And where do you see sexism?

    #6 3 years ago

Comments are now closed on this article.

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  • One Dead or Alive tournament organiser is proposing ban of “over-sexualised” costumes

    A Dead or Alive tournament organiser has suggested a soft ban on some of the game’s “over-sexualised” costumes, and not everyone is happy. Tournament organiser “The HuBBs” took to the FreeStepDodge forums to suggest a list of rules that other offline tournaments can follow. The list goes over stages, characters, moves, which is certainly in […]

  • Destiny: all the news from Bungie’s open house Q&A

    Bungie hosted an open house Q&A session with the community last week and lots of exciting news have come out of it. Arekkz Gaming has gathered all the information that came out of Bungie’s open house Q&A in one handy video. The list is massive, going over Exotic weapon balance, upcoming events, PVE, Crucible rewards, […]

  • Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen to honour Nimoy with in-game memorials

    Developers behind space exploration games Elite: Dangerous and Star Citizen will honour the memory of Leonard Nimoy through in-game memorials. The develops of both games have confirmed separately that in-game memorials will be established to honour the memory of the late Star Trek actor, Leonard Nimoy, famous for playing Spock. Elite: Dangerous executive producer Michael […]

  • Deal: get a PlayStation 4 + three exclusives for $399

    Amazon’s latest PlayStation 4 deal is not one to miss. With purchase of a PlayStation 4 console from Amazon in the US, the online retailer will throw in digital codes for Infamous Second Son, Killzone Shadow Fall and The Last of Us: Remastered, all for the same MSRP of $399. The Last of Us Remastered […]

  • Destiny: this is how one player predicted House of Wolves details and Xur’s inventory

    The method one Redditor possibly used to leak some details from Destiny’s House of Wolves was the same one he used to predict the inventory of Xur: Agent of the Nine. Last week, Reddit user Megamanexe4 leaked a few pieces of House of Wolves expansion content. The leaks included strikes, new Crucible mode, and a […]

  • Mortal Kombat X is coming to iOS… as a card-battler

    Mortal Kombat X will be releasing on mobile devices in some form, just not the one you except. Mortal Kombat X is coming to Android and iOS devices as an extension of the main game. It will launch in April alongside the console versions. The mobile game will be part card collecting and part fighting […]

  • Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain announcement coming this Wednesday

    Kojima Productions will unveil something about Metal Gear Solid 5: The Phantom Pain this Wednesday. Metal Gear Solid fans should standby for a Phantom Pain-related announcement on Wednesday, March 4. According to developer Kojima Productions’ Twitter, there’s going to be an announcement at 2pm GMT on Wednesday. The developer posted the following image. The image […]

  • Reader survey: time to let us get to know you better!

    We’d really appreciate it if you could fill in this survey about the websites you read and the games you buy. It massively helps! You can fill out the survey right here and obviously all the information you supply is confidential. It helps us build a better picture of the people who read our site […]

  • Battlefield Hardline Premium: here’s everything you get for $50

    Battlefield Hardline’s Premium membership will give players access to 4 new features, early access to expansion packs and more. EA detailed the offer today – it costs $50 in total (£40 in the UK) and gives players a whole bundle of new gear and content. Check it all out in handy list form below: Masks […]

  • Hayter’s gonna hate: the voice of Solid Snake wouldn’t answer my Metal Gear question

    Voice actor and Hollywood writer David Hayter discusses the differences between movies and games. And politely declines my leading question. “It might be fun to do a crazy, over-the-top film version of Saint’s Row.” Yeah, that headline is a bit cheap but you’re reading the work of a man who once asked the maker of […]

  • Xbox One bundle gets £100 price cut in UK

    Microsoft has knocked up to £100 off Xbox One bundles in the UK. The Xbox One with Kinect Assassin’s Creed bundle is now £100 cheaper and comes with a free £20 voucher to be spent on the official Microsoft online store. Over on the Xbox online store there’s a £70 price cut on the white […]

  • Pokemon Shuffle downloaded 1m times, free stuff given out to celebrate

    Free-to-play 3DS title Pokemon Shuffle has been downloaded over 1 million times. As a reward for playing the match-3 puzzle game Nintendo has gifted players a Complexity -1 item for free. The item reduces the difficulty of a level, according to Eurogamer. By all accounts Pokemon Shuffle is a cynical game with poorly implemented microtransactions. […]

  • Trine 3: The Artifacts of Power sure is pretty

    FrozenByte Games has revealed Trine 3, due for release in 2015 And what better way to reveal a new side-scrolling adventure than with a very pretty trailer full of gameplay? The latest in a series that has already sold 7 million copies is earmarked for PC and “other” formats. Trine 2 released on PS3, PS3, […]

  • Dying Light takes UK number one

    A month since it was released on digital platforms, Dying Light’s physical release has topped the UK charts. Techland and Warner’s zombie survival game has proven to be one of the big hits of the year so far. It was released on digital formats a month ago but has only just been released on good-old […]

  • GTA 5: that’s some seriously accurate grenade throwing

    Think you can take down a jet plane with a grenade throw? This guy can. In fact, he can do it twice. This is in a variation on the player-created deathmatch “Stunters Versus Snipers” which seem to be all the rage in GTA Online at the moment. One team has a sniper rifle (and grenades) […]

  • Metal Gear Solid 5: Mother Base turns pink in the morning sun

    The Phantom Pain looks nice even when Kojima just takes a quick pic with his phone. Look at that beauty. We get nice reflection in pink at the first gray of dawn. pic.twitter.com/aERTBoZT9z — HIDEO_KOJIMA (@HIDEO_KOJIMA_EN) March 2, 2015 The game doesn’t have a release date yet, which makes us a bit nervous for it […]

  • Dying Light: Underpant Gnomes and 9 other secrets you missed

    Dying Light still has legs – maybe because it’s crammed full of secret things to discover. Ten of those have been highlighted by TerraMantis’ latest YouTube video, including reference to the Underpant Gnomes, guitar lessons, farting zombies and well, we don’t want to spoil it for you. Even if you think you’ve seen everything in […]

  • Resident Evil: Revelations 2 Raid Mode dance gestures are deadly

    Why blind ‘em with science when you could kill ‘em with dance moves? revelations raid When I say Resident Evil: Revelations 2‘s Raid Mode dance gestures are deadly, I’m not being figurative. If you finish the first chapter of Revelations 2 you can unlock Gina for use in Raid Mode. All characters can use gestures […]

  • Dragon Age: Inquisition mod enables male Blackwall romance, terrific joke

    “Male Inquisitors can now scale the wall,” says a clever Redditor. A new Dragon Age: Inquisition mod removes Blackwall’s romantic restrictions, allowing male Inquisitors to chat up the fuzzy-faced warrior. Blackwall doesn’t have any race preferences, so you’re good to go there. Dragon Age: Inquisition romance mods are pretty common by now, and to be […]

  • Destiny: it is possible to solo the Weekly Heroic

    Destiny players willing to faff about with their system clock can solo the Weekly Nightfall if they prefer. The Weekly Heroic is one of Destiny‘s toughest challenges. Responding to player feedback Bungie implemented matchmaking for the Weekly Heroic, but there are players who genuinely prefer to go it alone. There’s now no legitimate way to […]

  • Clayfighter remaster on the way, says Interplay

    A Clayfighter remake is inbound, apparently. Interplay has announced a Clayfighter remaster, combining the content of all past games into one package. Features include: Characters such as Bad Mr. Frosty, Blue Suede Goo, Earthworm Jim, Hoppy, Boogerman, Tiny – and more with over 20 characters total Over 20 familiar environments from the series to duke […]

  • The quickest way to climb in Dying Light

    Dying Light players! Are you sick of picking your way carefully up the sides of tall towers? Have I got a trick for you. The parkour system in Dying Light is okay, but climbing anywhere especially high can be a bit tedious. Enter Jesse Lester, who took a look at the tools available and worked […]

  • Bungie “always” looking at Exotic changes for Destiny updates

    Destiny developer Bungie won’t stop tinkering with Exotic weapons. In Destiny, Exotic weapons are supposed to be the best of the best – and to feel unique. Guns like Ice Breaker and Gjallahorn definitely hit the mark there (although less so when everyone has one), but unfortunately, there are a few that just don’t strike […]

  • Is Uncharted 4′s first trailer a tribute to Crash Bandicoot?

    Uncharted 4′s first proper trailer bears some remarkable similarities to the opening moments of a much earlier Naughty Dog game. Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End has more in common with Crash Bandicoot than you might think. It’s Naughty Dog’s first game on a new console, yes – but if you compare Uncharted 4′s E3 2014 […]

  • Sonic console games will continue, says Iizuka

    Sonic Team leader Takashi Iizuka has said there are no plans to stop making Sonic games. Sonic hasn’t retired from the ranks just yet. “Please rest assured, I personally have no plans to stop making Sonic games for home consoles,” Iizuka told 4Gamer [Japanese]. The comment arose after the site asked if Sonic would become […]

  • Stealth Inc. 2 coming to PSN, apparently

    Stealth Inc. 2: A Game of Clones will soon be available on PlayStation platforms, if a trophy list is to be believed. Stealth Inc. 2 initially launched as a Wii U exclusive, disappointing fans of Curve Studios’ tough action game. We’ve heard nothing to contradict this, but Exophase, a generally reliable source, has dug up […]

  • Runescape developer has an “undisclosed MMO” in the works

    Runescape developer Jagex is working on something new. According to Jagex’s careers page, the developer has a new, unannounced game in the works. Its advertisement for a lead programmer makes explicit mention of an “undisclosed MMO”. The ad mentions the new title is in “the preliminary stages of redefining the cross platform MMORPG genre” and […]

  • Destiny PvP rewards system to be addressed

    Destiny developer Bungie has said it will change the way Crucible rewards work. Destiny players are always complaining about the perfidy of RNGesus, but there’s one area where it particularly hurts: the Crucible. PvP players often receive nothing at all for excellent performances, and sometimes Guardians receive the best drops merely for logging in as […]

  • Azure Striker Gunvolt 2 in the works for 3DS

    Azure Striker Gunvolt is getting a sequel. Azure Striker Gunvolt developer Inti Creates has confirmed that the sidescroller has been popular enough to warrant a second instalment. The sequel will also be released on 3DS, the team said on Facebook. Very little information is available at present, unfortunately. “As time goes on we will have […]

  • Life is Strange Episode 2 not delayed, says developer

    Life is Strange developer Dontnod Entertainment has said the second episode is on track for release this month. I guess it would know. Life is Strange Episode 2 has been expected on March 13, but late last week Square Enix told Destructoid it had been delayed. Dontnod has since denied this report, describing it as […]

  • First SteamVR game reveal is Job Simulator

    Job Simulator is the first game to be announced specifically for SteamVR, Valve’s virtual reality tech. Shoot Many Robots and Aaaaa! For the Awesome! developer Owlchemy Labs is the first team to put its hand up and say it’s worked with SteamVR. In a blog post, the studio unveiled Job Simulator, which will be playable […]

  • HTC, Valve partner for Vive VR headset

    The first SteamVR announce is a headset a manufactured by HTC, the Taiwanese mobile company revealed over the weekend. Valve told us last week it planned to unveil virtual reality hardware at GDC, calling it “SteamVR” at the time. Now HTC has pre-empted Valve by revealing Vive, a headset developed thanks to a collaboration between […]

  • Watch the Evolve Chappie Challenge tomorrow on Twitch

    Sony Pictures Entertainment, 2K and Turtle Rock Studios have announced a tournament being hosted by ESL, which will see Evolve players take on newest movie robot, Chappie. The ESL has teamed up with Twitch for the live 4 on 1 competitive event, and you can watch as it all unfolds tomorrow, March 1 at 3pm […]

  • If you’re attending PAX East, stop and have a look at Necropolis

    We haven’t heard much on Harebrained Schemes’ latest since it was announced in November, but today, the team has seen fit to release some interesting gifs of its a new project, Necropolis. Necropolis is a third-person action rogue-like with procedurally generated which can be “re-rolled mid-playthrough” and is headed to Linux, Mac and PC sometime […]

  • Dragon’s Dogma Online really is lovely, as these screenshots prove

    More Dragon’s Dogma Online screenshots have been released, and this batch is just as lovely as the last gallery we posted. Since this game will likely never leave Japan, the images are a bit of a salt rub for fans of the IP, but hopefully another entry in the series will be released at some […]

  • Action-RPG Death’s Gambit has a classic-Castlevania feel to it

    How would you like to become an agent of Death and rid the world of immortals? Then Death’s Gambit may just be the game for you. Announced by LA-based studio White Rabbit, the action-RPG with platforming elements tasks players with fighting gigantic enemies on an alien, medieval planet. Players will also encounter formidable beasts, knights, […]

  • Modder adds offline co-op into Resident Evil: Revelations 2

    PC users lamenting the lack of local, offline co-op in Resident Evil: Revelations 2 will be pleased to know a modder has remedied the omission. The mod, created by FluffyQuack, adds offline co-op mode to Episode 1 but the only caveat is players will need to use gamepads instead of mouse and keyboard (via Gamespot). […]

  • Number of Steam accounts with Dota 2 installed hits over 42 million

    Dota 2 has seen its installation rate jump 85% year-over-year, resulting in the MOBA now having close to 43 million installations worldwide. The figures were published via a report from video game research and consulting firm EEDAR, which studied Steam accounts daily to better understand the service’s player behavior and title performance. According to statistics […]

  • Nintendo issuing Eon Ticket codes for Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire

    Nintendo is handing out an Eon Ticket to Pokemon Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire owners which will allow them to visit the Southern Island. Once a player arrives, depending on which version of the game they own, Pokemon Latios and Latias are able to be caught. The Eon Ticket was originally issued via StreetPass, but […]